Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars are invested in the equipment and facilities that are required to abstract, store, treat and distribute water. Such investments, however, have paid scant attention to some of the most important, and productive, components of water infrastructure: these are the ecosystems – wetlands, forests, grasslands and other natural habitats – that provide a wide array of services to maintain water supplies, uphold water quality and guard against water-related hazards such as pollution, storms, floods and droughts.
Sustainable river basin management pays dividends for poverty reduction, water security and economic development. Conventional water investments, however, ignore the economic role of river basins themselves and ecosystems as natural water infrastructure. They omit the natural ecosystems which safeguard and maintain water quality and supplies, protect against waterrelated disasters and generate goods and services that are vital for human well-being and economic development.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): A membership union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together. Created in 1948, IUCN has evolved into the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its 1,300 Member organisations and the input of some 10,000 experts. IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. Our experts are organised into six commissions dedicated to species survival, environmental law, protected areas, social and economic policy, ecosystem management, and education and communication.
Dr Mark Smith
Director, IUCN Global Water Programme